How to Be an Agile Entrepreneur (with Ramesh Dontha)

In this episode of the How To CEO podcast, I was delighted to have a chance to speak with Ramesh Dontha, a serial entrepreneur. Ramesh is the host of the Agile Entrepreneur podcast and the author of the #1 bestselling book, the 60-Minute Startup.

The Four Values of the Agile Framework

I first asked Ramesh what CEOs should know about Agile Entrepreneurship. He told me that the basics of the agile framework are laid out in four values.

The first is Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools. Always prioritize people.

The second is Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation. Ramesh explained that since Agile started with software development, it stipulated that you should always focus first getting something working first. This is opposed to writing the requirements first and having perfect documentation, perfect requirements, etc.

The third is Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation. So, rather than trying to first get all the t’s crossed and i’s dotted, we should focus on customer collaboration. We should see what customers need.

The fourth is Responding to Change over Following a Plan. Change is inevitable. So recognize it and accommodate for change as opposed to trying to work with a rigid plan.

Applying These Values to Agile Entrepreneurship

Ramesh told me that if we look at these four overarching principles, they’re all applicable to any walk of life. He broke it down this way:

First, as a CEO, we should look at individuals, the collaboration, the team structure, and the interactions within the teams.

Second, every day or every week, we should be doing something, accomplishing something, and using these actions as the basis for discussion and a basis for figuring out if we’ve been meeting the customer’s needs. We should be taking actions as opposed to taking a lot of time to come up with a very comprehensive plan, which may or may not be successful. Instead, we should have something to show. Like proof of concepts.

Third, we should make sure the customer interaction and collaboration is very solid.

Fourth, it’s wise to drop the idea of a “perfect plan.” Ramesh explained that many times, CEOs and entrepreneurs want to wait for the perfect everything. We want to have the perfect business plan, we want to wait for the perfect pricing, etc. But there’s no perfect. You don’t know what’s perfect. As you go forward, anticipate that change is going to happen.

For example: Once you have a product and you get it out into the market, you’ll get to know if the pricing is right based on feedback. Then you tweak, adjust, and pivot based on what you’re learning instead of waiting for the “perfect everything” to happen first.

The 60-Minute Startup

I asked Ramesh how all of this translates into the 60-Minute Startup. He explained it like this:

Peter Drucker, one of the preeminent management consultants, back in the 1950s, said: “The primary purpose of any business is to create a customer.” That’s it. And you create a customer by doing two things: One is innovation, and the second is marketing. So innovate on your product and services, and secondly, market the innovation. Everything else is noise.

If I take that concept literally and apply it to agile methodology, entrepreneurship has two components. One is to launch the business, and the second is that you get paying customers.

One Hour Per Day, 30 Days Or Less

The 60-Minute Startup has a subtitle: A Proven System To Start Your Business in One Hour a Day And Get Your First Paying Customers in 30 Days (Or Less).

The concept here is that in the first 15 days, spend 60 minutes a day just to launch your business. On day one, you might want to look at and determine: what are the assets, what are the strengths, and what are the skill sets you have. Make an inventory of it all.

On the next day, you want to look at the customers you’re trying to target as well as their pain points.

So every day, you should spend 60 minutes on one element of launching your business. And one of the days could be establishing your business plan, but don’t spend any more than 60 minutes. Don’t try to make it the “perfect” business plan. Later on, you can tweak it.

So the first 15 days are all about the elements required, and only the elements required, to launch a business. The next 15 days are all about implementing proven strategies to get paying customers. At the end of the month, you’ll have a business and paying customers.

This way, you’re doing something every day to show yourself that you’ve made progress. And you’re doing this with the understanding that you’ll be tweaking the things that aren’t working. This is much better than waiting six months to create the “perfect” business plan or the “perfect” business, then getting frustrated and giving up.

Listen For More

Ramesh had much more insight to pass on. Some of his other topics included his reasons why every CEO should aspire to be an author, other founders/CEOs who are good at agile entrepreneurship, and more. Be sure to hear the entire episode!

Murray Newlands

Murray Newlands is an entrepreneur, investor, business advisor and speaker. He is the founder of the How to CEO podcast and you can read his blog at MurrayNewlands.com.

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